Even dental offices that have no problem getting and retaining new patients struggle with one thing: the everlasting problem of patients who schedule appointments and then fail to show up. It’s a problem that not only wastes the time of dental staff, it also prevents other (paying) patients from getting treatment.
There’s another albeit smaller problem that runs alongside patients who fail to show up for their appointment: patients who fail to confirm their appointment but show up anyway. This leaves dental offices forced to make a tough decision; if a patient doesn’t confirm their appointment, should they bank on them showing up or schedule another patient in their time slot?
The answer to this question is up to your interpretation of the patient’s liableness, and the best way to avoid the scenario outright is to ensure that all patients confirm their appointments, but how? Follow these tips to increase your patient confirmation rates.
Diversify Your Notification Methods
Some dental clinics call patients a few days before their appointment, some have an automated system send them a text or an email, and others have an online portal where patients can sign in and confirm their appointment. These types of reminders work well in ensuring that a patient not only knows they have an appointment coming up, but also actively confirms that they will be there, as well. Some clinics even send direct mail reminders to patients who aren’t as up to speed with new technology as others. So long as you have some type of notification and confirmation system put into place, you can drastically decrease your number of unconfirmed appointments.
Speak With Troublesome Patients
If some patients are frequently not confirming their appointments, or will confirm them and not show up, make it a point to have a conversation with them the next time they are in your office. Be cordial, direct and polite in how you go about the conversation. Some people are simply forgetful and need to be told that what they are doing is negatively impacting your practice and other patients who are trying to get on your schedule. If a patient is frequently unreliable, let them know that you will be unable to schedule appointments out for them and that they will have to be visit your office on a walk-in basis only.
If All Else Fails, Try Cancellation Fees
This can be a hard concept for many dental offices to accept, since it often causes conflict with patients, but if you are struggling to get patients to stick with their appointments, you can try putting into place a cancellation fee. These fees charge patients should they cancel too close to their appointment time or fail to show for it. Money can be a good motivator for people, but it’s up to you if you want to put this into place at your facility.